How Sex Could Save Japan

May 21, 2015

In his latest article for the Sacramento Bee, CMDS Fellow Markos Kounalakis writes about the interplay between demographics and world politics, and the different approaches various countries take to stimulate population growth.  

Survival was the topic of Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s summit last week with President Barack Obama. It was not stated as such, but talks were about long-term economic and military survival for a Japan operating in a world of growing threats and rising powers. But in an odd twist, Japan’s survival has less to do with corporate boardrooms or defense operations centers and more to do with that surreptitious situation room: The bedroom.

Japan is facing one of the greatest post-war crises in history. The Land of the Rising Sun is aging its way to extinction. For the past decade, Japan has seen its population dropping steadily. This is a result not only of a drop in birth rate, but also a lack of fresh blood in the form of immigrants. In 2013, Japan’s government reported a record reduction of 244,000 people – roughly the number of residents in Madison, Wis.
By contrast, the United States is a young and dynamic country. The U.S. population has more than doubled since 1950 and may have recently added another 5 million immigrants to census reports with the stroke of Obama’s executive-order pen. But the riches of youth and vigor are not a given for most post-industrialized nations in the world. In fact, the United States is both an exception and an aberration.
Social scientists have long identified a demographic trend where the richer and more educated a nation becomes, the lower its fertility rate. Wealth and schooling are not the cause of dropping birth rates, but economic success often translates into evaporating populations. Add health care improvements, extended lifespans and changing family attitudes to the mix, and you have a number of populations that are getting older by the day.
Why are Americans exceptional? It’s not that they enjoy sex more than other countries do. According to a survey conducted by the condom manufacturer Durex, Greeks have the most frequent intimate relations, while the Japanese have the least frequent. America’s numbers aren’t too shabby, with a higher percentage of Americans stating they are happier with their sex lives than the global average.

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